Thursday, March 29, 2012

Beauty called forth

Do you ever feel like there is a specific theme to a season of your life?  Sometimes I notice (or can’t help but notice!) that the Lord surrounds me with scripture, words,  art, and music that literally scream out a simple, but profound truth for me to explore.  In the last year, that theme has been “Beauty.”  (I know, I know, that sounds pretty vain to say my theme of the year is BEAUTY.  Of all things.)  But,  I don’t mean beauty that is merely physical.  For instance, my daughter picked the most beautiful twig off a tree in our front yard to give to her Grandma.  We were meeting her at Panera and all of us were trying to figure out what in the car smelled so terrible.  Sure enough, it was those pretty flowers.  And boy, isn’t that the truth for so much physical beauty we see?  The irony of a pretty flower that stinks.
The beauty I’ve been learning about lately has a physical component, but only in the way that the stuff of the heart bubbles up and is reflected in the countenance and in a body possessing a contented and happy soul.  “For in Him, we live and move and have our being.”  Acts 17:28
 The beauty of redemption and purpose in Christ that is birthed from sorrow, pain, and suffering is far more than skin-deep and yet envelopes an entire soul in such a way that one radiates beauty inside and out.  Who doesn’t want a little of that?  ;)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.   Isaiah 61:1-3

It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did when the theme of the Created for Care conference for adopting mamas this year was “He makes beautiful things”.  All of the decorations were centered on this theme and there was a plaque on each table with the words from Ecclesiastes 3:11  “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” 
During the retreat, there was an opportunity for a “Date with God.”  Basically there were different stations set up to pray, read God’s word, paint, sculpt, and intercede for others.  To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really expecting much from my “Date with God.”  I usually prefer to just pray alone or have quiet time in the comfort of my own house.  I really wasn’t prepared to experience such a sweet time with Jesus.  I looked around at tables with playdoh and paint and felt really out of place.  (I might have even rolled my eyes, in my heart.)
All of my judging stopped though, when the hour officially began.  Even in a room full of women, there was a holiness and peace that entered into that space.  There was a “wailing wall” where women could place their heart’s deepest prayer requests on sticky notes for others to pray for them.  I cannot tell you the depth of riches I felt, literally placing my hand on a weighty request of the soul, simply taped to the wall, and carrying an unknown sister or family to the throne room of heaven in prayer.  It was the most precious time.  What an absolute privilege to go before the Living God on behalf of a sweet sister who carries a heavy burden.  I shakily wrote out my own biggest prayer, encompassing my fear and as I pressed it on the wall to be carried by others, I felt that burden leave with a heavy thud.  If we, as believers are the body of Christ, then my request was being taken up by Christ himself.  Some things are too big to grasp and only the heart can comprehend the meaning of it.
Another prayer corner of the room was a map of the world, both on the walls and the floor.  As I knelt down and placed my hand on Africa to pray, I noticed how small my hands were.  I could not physically cover that place with my hands.  I felt sobs swell up as I noted my “smallness” to pray for my two little ones in their big land full of real pain and real loss.  My eyes lifted in that moment to a God who IS big enough.  As more women silently prayed near me, I realized the truth stated by Jesus in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."  There is power in Christ when believers gather together, when weak and small hands are filled with the Holy Spirit’s power to reach and to love.
The next place I visited on my “date” was the painting table.  I really wanted to avoid it.  I love art, but I am not a gifted painter.  I savor the visual art of others, but I have never expressed myself well with a paintbrush. There was an empty chair, so I went and sat.  Reluctantly.  The colors were primary, plus white and black.
I sat for awhile, praying for God to show me what to paint.  Again, I wasn’t really expecting much.  Finally I dipped my paint brush in black.  Pure darkness.  And I remembered.  I remembered a time of despair in my life.  A time when I felt truly alone and hopeless.  Depression.  I distinctly remember crying out to God in that moment from my very real pit and imprisonment.   It was in that darkness that God met me.
The next color I chose was yellow.  I almost picked white, but the warmth of light that fell on me in that time of despair was golden, like sunlight streaming and bathing me in peace.   I painted yellow falling, pouring light and reaching down to the blackness.
Then I stopped.  I waited.  I wished I could paint something growing out of that black.  I was annoyed at my artistic limitations.  I picked green.  I drew 7 green lines rising up from the dark, beckoned to come forth by the brightness of the light.  7 green lines,  representing 5 of us plus 2 more little ones we have yet to meet.  I wanted to make them flowers, but I wouldn’t have known what colors to pick.  So I just left them empty.  Full of hope and possibility; expecting beauty to come.
My painting won’t end up in any gallery.  It might not even make it onto my fridge.  But the words I wrote at the top echo the theme of my life right now, for myself, for my children, our adoption, my relationship with Christ, and even in my work with children in my music classes and adults in Pilates classes.  Beauty called forth.
God is teaching me to wait on Him and to seek Him to be an instrument of calling forth His beauty, hidden in the people I meet, in the family I love, and the face I see  every day in the mirror.  He makes all things beautiful in His time.  His beauty is worth seeking and waiting for.

So, tell me about you?  What theme does God seem to be teaching you in this season of your life?  Is there a verse you keep seeing or a song  that seems to be the “theme” of your life today?  I would love to hear about it!! Please leave a comment below.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Word that is Greater

Psalm 138:2
I will bow down toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.

I shall worship in the temple of your holiness and I shall give thanks to your Name for your kindness and for your truth, because you have extolled your Word above every name!

I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

What began as a flutter and quickening of life in our home, as we felt the surge of expectation at adopting has slowly become a wandering of sorts in the wilderness, with determined hope of a Promised Land.  The longer I journey, the more books I read about adoption, attachment, the mind-numbing climate of international adoption, the more I am convinced that Jesus Christ alone is the Promised Land in this adoption.  Not two precious children, no longer orphans, but Jesus Himself.  This adoption process has opened my eyes; one minute I am afraid, and the very next, I find comfort in the shadow of His wings; I am literally lifted to a Rock higher than myself.  That is a safe place to be.
This blog has been a reminder of words that I can’t find most days.  For someone who loves language and words as I do, it is baffling to discover that my soul journey to our newest children has been mostly unwritable for me.  (is that even a word?  See what I mean!)
The dossier paperwork was an act of obedience and a reminder of my weakness in ticking off lists and re-doing what I had already done what seemed like a hundred times.  I realized my terribly pouty tendencies to rebel against the whole system by procrastinating at miniscule tasks that at the time felt insurmountable.  By the time we actually made it to the waiting list just before Christmas, I didn’t feel so much victorious as completely whipped. 
If only I had known that the emotional preparation would be more difficult than the paperwork.
How does one prepare a home for someone who may initially reject the very fabric of our family?  How do I prepare my heart for little ones, older than their years marked by pain and loss, who might block my attempts to love them; who might bite and kick and spit to push me away to reject me loud and clear,  a reflexive survival mechanism of the soul.   As I read of the wounds of young children whose attachment has been disrupted by neglect, abuse, or abandonment, my heart and mind cannot grasp the effects of such pain on such a tiny person.  There are days I think “WHAT ARE WE DOING?”  My prayers go something like this, “Father, I can’t do this!  I am too weak.  I struggle as a mom to healthy children!  Father, I can’t….”  And always, always, always, I hear the Spirit of the Living God remind me deep of His word, magnified above all names, above my fear.  I am reminded of the Gospel, the Good News, that in my weakness, He is strong.  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13
Each moment my wandering heart is scooped up and placed firmly on the Rock that is higher than I…the Rock that is mighty to deliver, mighty to save, mighty to sustain.  He will never leave me or forsake me.  His heart is for the orphan.  He alone is the refuge for my soul. 
I pray every day, every quiet moment it seems, for the God who has numbered the hairs on my head, the God who has breathed life into the depths of darkness in my soul, into the rocky soil of our marriage, into the physical and spiritual bodies of my three children, that this God would be at work in Ethiopia, healing the brokenness and pain of two tiny hearts that we would be blessed to call our children.  The Word is magnified above my fears.  Jesus is magnified above all the worse-case scenarios and God can do anything He wants to in our family.  I sit here in this holy temple, surrounded by yesterday’s toys, someone’s socks, and sunlight filtering through dust, and know the presence of a Word that is exalted in this place.